Journal: 13 March

Originally posted to Ask The Fire, 15 March 2018

It's really, really hot today.

It's sneaky-hot here! Almost no humidity, and it feels like a fairly cool day every time you go out, but the sun sticks to you worse than it does in America. So you wind up feeling awfully hot, even though you didn't think it was so bad when you first stepped outside.

It's not like Louisiana, where you know it'll be awful the second you leave the house, or Illinois, where you start feeling cooler after the sun's been beating down. Very strange.

Anyway. Today started with assembly. I found my first cooperating teacher and followed her to lines--her class was sitting in single-file on a sports court--and then we walked into assembly together.

All the students sit quietly in gender groups for assembly. It's very, very orderly--has to be, or not everyone would fit in the building. The big announcement for today was that the students would be learning special cheers and songs for use at sports games. It's stand tunes, essentially. They were asking for some 300-400 students as a dedicated stand cheer force. Other than that, not a lot of the assembly pertained to me, so I mostly looked at the house shields on the walls and the portraits of the head teachers.

One thing I'll say for South African schools (not that it's the only thing going for them, just that it's one of the most obvious): they're big on ceremony. There's a lot of recognition for everything, and pride is a huge part of the school culture. Group identity is also very important; not sure if that's country-wide or just a Pearson thing.

Well, after assembly we made our way into sports meetings. Since I'm not attached to a sport and since I didn't want to get lost, I followed my first cooperating teacher to the netball meeting. Netball, evidently, is the women's form of basketball. You can't move with the ball when you have possession, and there are other rules that I absolutely can't remember. The sport meetings covered the new athletics uniform rules and separated a few new students into teams (A-string, B-string, social, etc.).

And finally, class. We got up to the class room and had class underway by 8:43, which is only a few minutes after we were scheduled to start. It was pretty disorienting starting instruction later than the previous day, but I suppose I'll get used to it. This was a Grade 9 class that was performing orals, which is essentially what they call speeches, oral reports, impromptus and other speaking-band assessments.

For Grade 9, students were asked to prepare a short story and read it aloud to their classmates. The story didn't have to be their own: most students used existing stories instead of writing ones of their own. All that was being assessed, then, was their ability to speak and keep an audience engaged.

I've never really done that with a class--ask them to speak someone else's words just to formally assess their speaking skills--but I kind of liked how it worked out. I thought it would be a little better with some guided listening or audience response activities, but 6 and a half-dozen, one or the other.

Then we moved to another room. I was technically assigned to a new teacher, but she's apparently out sick, so my previous teacher had her Plasma form. Plasma is... honestly, I have no clue what it means or stands for, but it's sub notes for other teachers in the department. She was essentially given their assignment for the day and asked to babysit the class while she did other work.

I actually offered to read with the class, since they were working on the Grade 9 novel that I'd read the night before. We did student-volunteer reading, got a little bit of time to answer questions and then had an “Ask the American” period, which I think will be the norm for a while. They asked me about Trump and about how American school works. (Side note: my cooperating teacher seemed impressed by my classroom control, though I must admit it's pretty easy when the kids are just stunned by the foreign teacher.)

After break, I went to another teacher and watched some more orals. These were Grade 11, and they seemed to be informative speeches. It seems that the speech band moves a little slower here--I'd have been asking Grade 11's to make persuasive or extemporaneous speeches by then, but again, I'm new here and I can't really judge. Some of the students in this group were very good speakers, and the teacher kept telling them to try out for their house plays at the end of the term. So far that's the first I've heard about house plays, so I don't really understand the reference.

And then my free periods wound up right next to each other, bookending a break! It worked out just fine because I left my lunch at home, so I had to walk back and get it. Said hi to the cleaning lady that Maria hires, grabbed my bacon and banana pizza (it's actually amazing, I promise) and headed back to school, much sweatier than before.

The final class of the day was... you guessed it, more orals. So I watched another group of students (this time Grade 10) give some informative speeches on a topic of their choosing. I'm not sure visual aids are required for any of these students, and not all of them did one--much less than half, actually! Strange.

Final order of business for the day was play practice. I heard the wrong time and wound up at the school at the wrong time, but I hitched a ride with someone who was going over later in the evening and helped backstage. Mostly I taped guiding lines onto some black set pieces, but everyone seemed to think that was just the best thing, so I suppose I'm in for the long run.

The school play! It's Footloose, and some of the American accents are... well. Some are great. Some, not so much. I get the feeling that, had I showed up earlier in the year, I'd be a dialect coach instead of a stage hand, but here I am painting instead.

Aside from the hit-and-miss accents, the play is looking good. There are a lot of talented actors in the group, and they have the pleasure of a really nice venue: the Savoy, which overlooks the bay and part of the town. It's a great view, especially late in the evening.

I got back to the house really late; Maria was kind of worried, since I didn't tell her how late I'd be out (I didn't know, to be fair). Everything's all worked out now, though.

And I tried African CocaCola! It's not as bad as American Coke. Good job, South Africa.

1 Comment

Aunt Angie, posted 19 March 2018, 5:41 PM

I'd be curious what the students there think of Trump, especially since they asked you about him.

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